Corb Lund
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Corb Lund ‘Things That Can’t Be Undone’ – Album Review

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Back on October 9 Corb Lund and his band The Hurtin’ Albertans released their second album in just over a year; ‘Things That Can’t Be Undone’ followed 2014’s ‘Counterfeit Blues’ and also 2012’s #1 Canadian album ‘Cabin Fever’. This latest record is both the culmination and the continuation of a building buzz around Corb and his backing band, that has seen him grow his roots from his Alberta home into the United States and Europe, garnering critical acclaim from all sides and establishing an enthusiastic live fan base.

I was new to Corb when I came into this album, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What arose was a socially-conscious, emphatic and richly storytelling record that bore different values and messages than I tend to come across in Americana. While hardly a deep stretch from the roots of the genre, it’s regardless a step apart from his contemporaries, both lyrically and sonically. Such interesting narratives begin from the very launch of the opening track, as the Motown-esque ‘Weight of The Gun’ draws on Corb’s favoured military theme with a veteran lamenting to his mother of the burden of having taken part in warfare. Aligning the physical weight of armour and weaponry with the emotional weight of having committed mass murder, it is at times unclear whether the “shame” he states he’s brought upon the family refers to having killed others in the line of duty, or whether he’s actually a deserter who couldn’t take it anymore.

This theme crops up again on ‘Sadr City’, where a man confides in his wife about how he never wants to return to Iraq where he was serving. He swears blind he’ll never go back until the end of the song, where he finds out he’s being sent back regardless. We hear his voice become deflated where it had previously gathered steam, as he comes to terms with the fact he’ll have to return to the nightmares of war.

There’s a definite sense of travelling on this record as the life of a musician informs his writing, from the alt country show closer ‘Goodbye Colorado’, which celebrates heading home after a long tour, to the clever and dry ‘Washed Up Rock Star Factory Blues’, which serves as something of an answer song to Johnny Paycheck’s ‘Take This Job And Shove It’. Written with Evan Felker of the Turnpike Troubadours, it finds a musician whose career is taking a downward turn and thus has to go back to the job he told to shove it. The boss takes it upon himself to make fun of the failing musician, and there are some golden lines that highlight the lead character’s embarrassment and torture. Luckily, it’s all a dream, and this witty track heads for another twist as the musician wakes up on his tour bus with a new appreciation for road life. After all, it could be worse!

But the prevailing theme on ‘Things That Can’t Be Undone’ is the process of change and how things just ain’t how they used to be. Rather than taking the perspective of that stereotypical bitter redneck we’ve all heard one thousand times, Corb employs a variety of tales that make us appreciate what we have and also what we used to have. On the spicy rock ‘n’ roller ‘Alt Berliner Blues’, he express sadness that his favourite German watering hole is set to be bulldozed to make room for condos; on the sweet country ditty ‘Run This Town’, he reflects on a relationship that never quite worked, but could have been brilliant if each had met in the middle (“If I’d have sped up, and you’d have slowed down”); on the aching ballad ‘Alice Eyes’, he muses on a true love who eventually disappeared, leaving him bereft.

‘S Lazy H’ is a lyrical highlight, as the arrangement is stripped-back so much that only a picked acoustic guitar accompanies Corb’s droning vocals, the melody one of the most simplistic and repetitive I have heard in some time. This serves to lend the song a raw cowboy folksong style, even if occasionally some melodic exploration would have been welcome. The track tells the rambling life story of a man who grew up on a ranch (Corb himself is a 6th generation rancher), learning to take it over himself when his parents passed away. However, as expansion occurs and a greedy sister becomes involved after leaving to get married, the narrator is forced to sell off parts of his land, eventually passing ownership over to the bank. “Many lifetimes of labour will be all but erased, so shed a tear and look skyward, God help the S Lazy H,” he cries, as he watches the hard-won land turn into yet more condos.

Following the scorching semi-psychedelic warning of ‘Talk Too Much’, the 10-track record comes to a close on the gentle ballad ‘Sunbeam’, which is a tribute to Corb’s deceased young niece after he suffered the loss of his father and grandmother too. It’s a lovely song to pay heed to those whose lights have left us, still to shine on in our lives, and I can imagine will be a popular pick at funerals to deftly encapsulate emotions.

Produced by Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton), ‘Things That Can’t Be Undone’ is a great Americana album that aims to experiment while staying true to the roots that gave the band life. Steeped in 60s and 70s country, rock and Motown, and driven by the great songwriting that has propelled Corb Lund’s career, this would be a great addition to any music fan’s collection.

Originally posted here.